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Campaign Period Comes to Roaring End

[Editor's note: For full audio to VOA Khmer's coverage of this story, scroll throughout.]

Fifteen days of slogans and shouting, mayhem and motorcades across the country came to an end Friday, with mass political rallies in many cities and continued allegations of irregularities and abuse.

Saturday was expected to be calm, as the nation readies itself for a long day of voting Sunday, when more than 100,000 candidates from 12 different parties will be whittled down to small councils in 1,621 communes.

Reporters for VOA Khmer spread across the country, checking in as each party made a final bid to woo local voters. Commune councils are meant to take some of the decision-making out of the hands of central government. But the ruling Cambodian People's Party has said it expects to win a sweeping majority, and commune councils often take marching orders from the national leadership.

To listen to Part One in Khmer, .

To listen to Part Two in Khmer, .

In Phnom Penh, opposition leader Sam Rainsy led party supporters through the streets in a mass nighttime rally that lasted until midnight. No campaigning will be allowed on Saturday, so this was the last night for candidates to convince nearly 8 million voters they would serve them best. VOA Khmer followed the rally for a live report.

To listen to Mean Veasna report in Khmer, .

Voters in Bantey Meanchey saw a major rally at a CPP headquarters, although the other three main parties were relatively quiet. But the CPP was facing accusations in the province it had distributed up to 2 million fake ballots. Observers said these were intended to frighten voters into selecting candidates from the ruling party in the real election Sunday, potentially swaying tens of thousands of votes. A National Election Committee official said the mock ballots were a means of educating voters.

To listen to Kong Soth report in Khmer, .

The CPP was also facing accusations Friday it had forced villagers to put their fingerprints to a promise to vote for the ruling party. Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said he had not received a complaint but would forward any allegations of abuse to the NEC.

To listen to Suon Kanika report in Khmer, .

Sam Rainsy Party supporters in Kampong Thom province told VOA Friday that members of a Provincial Election Committee overstepped their neutral bounds when they interfered with an opposition rally. PEC officials said they were working to ensure large rallies from different parties near a market did not clash.

To listen to Heng Reaksmey report in Khmer, .